POMONA, California – “When I was 18,” Don Overstreet said, “God called me to ministry and gave me my life verse: ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me’ (Philippians 4:13).
“I’ve held on to that verse through these years of ministry. I do a lot of crazy things. I go places where most people won’t go, so I’ve held on to that verse for a long time and will until the Lord takes me home.”
Don is a church planting catalyst with the California Southern Baptist Convention’s Church Starting Group responsible for starting churches in Southern California, focusing primarily on the High Desert, Inland Empire, Long Beach Harbor and Los Angeles Associations.
Raised in a Christian home and saved as a child, Don’s first church start was in San Juan Capistrano when he was 18 years old.
“It was a Spanish church,” Don related. “The pastor did the Spanish in the front and I did English with a bunch of kids in the back. That’s where I learned to preach, and I’ve been doing it ever since.”
God has used Don to plant around 500 churches during the over four decades of his ministry.
“I don’t have a fancy strategy for starting churches,” Don said. “I am a missionary. I just go and pray over areas where we need churches. I ask God for church planters who would fit that community, and He has been very gracious and answered my prayers.”
Don’s philosophy of ministry is to meet the felt needs of people so they can be introduced to their greatest need—Jesus. He has started hip-hop churches, post-modern churches, biker churches, and house churches.
Don does inner-city church starting throughout the state. He has been involved in establishing more than 30 Set Free churches in California and other states. Set Free ministry reaches those addicted to alcohol or drugs, who are at the end of their ropes and ready to grab hold of a new life in Christ.
A missionary with the Southern Baptist Convention’s International (the Foreign) Mission Board during the late 70’s and early 80’s, Don established the first Southern Baptist church on St. Vincent in the Caribbean. Nine churches now serve the island’s 120,000 people.
Don admits that sometimes, “I don’t look like I know what I’m doing, I don’t act like I know what I’m doing, and I don’t talk like I know what I’m doing. But” he added, “I know who does, and He holds my hand. I don’t have all the wisdom of the world. I don’t have all of the abilities, I just know how to love people and trust Jesus.”
He graduated from California Baptist University and earned a master of divinity degree from Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary and serves as an adjunct professor at the Golden Gate Southern California campus.
Don and his wife, Leesa, have been married for 25 years and have six biological children, nine foster children and 15 grandchildren. They began their ministry as foster parents to at-risk children 10 years ago.
Don’s message to California Southern Baptists:
“We need to continue to look out on the harvest fields around us. There are more people in California now than ever in our history and 90 percent of them are lost and going to hell. We need to get serious about reaching out. We need to get serious about going outside of the church walls and out of our comfort zones. We need to go after people and love them into His kingdom.”
Don’s prayer requests:
Pray that God will give Don and Leesa good health and the strength to continue their ministry. Don has had three bouts with cancer and several surgeries, including a liver transplant.
Pray for the cooperative ministries of churches to reach unreached people groups in the Los Angeles area.
Pray for the inner-city skid row ministries.
Pray that God will open doors to reach young professionals who are moving into new lofts and high-rise apartments in downtown Los Angeles.
Pray that God will continue to provide church planters and the finances for CSBC’s church planting movement.
Praise God for raising good men who have hearts to go after California’s unreached people groups of differing lifestyles. All of these young men and women sacrifice to follow God’s call.
Praise God for the Set Free ministries throughout the state. Over the past 12 years, God has saved 15,000 California street people through Set Free.
Praise God for bringing Leesa into my life and for her faithfulness. She has been steadfast throughout my numerous illnesses.
Did you know?
Sent Out (ISBN 1-894933-31-1), written by Don Overstreet, discusses the calling, character, and heart issues of a church planter.
Spin-Off Churches: How One Church Successfully Plants Another (Broadman & Holman, paperback), is authored by Rodney Harrison, Tom Cheyney, and Don Overstreet.
God's Call to the City, co-authored with Mark Hammond, DOM of Los Angeles Association.
Don’s contact information:
583 Garden Ave.
Pomona, California 91767